EASTLAKE—Mentor shrugged off a slow start to defeat host North in a non-conference match on Monday, 3-1.
The Cardinals fell behind early and lost the first set, 25-21, but regrouped and found their groove midway through the second set. Mentor won the final three games, 25-21, 25-21, 25-13.
“We knew North is scrappy and they have been for a while,” said Mentor coach Samantha Weaver, who preceded Tamara Heller as North’s coach before taking the job with the Cardinals. “We know they have a great defense and Tamara has done a great job but we just couldn’t put a ball down in that first set and most of the second set as well. Once they started getting in the groove and getting out of their little jitters, we were able to kind of figure out where to put it.”
Weaver didn’t panic in the early goings.
Instead, she allowed her players to work through their struggles and that strategy paid off.
“I just kind of let them work through their mistakes. I don’t like to yank too quickly,” Weaver said. “I let them work through their mistakes and they know I trust them or else I wouldn’t put them out there and so they went through their mistakes and then that stuff starts to fall eventually if you let them work it out.”
Seniors Molly Stayer and Ella Rogers kick-started the Mentor attack in the second set and the Cardinals never looked back.
Stayer recorded a game-high 21 kills with eight digs and two blocks while Rogers finished with 10 kills and a team-high 14 digs.
Senior Morgan Holmes also stepped up with six blocks and four kills. Senior Jenna Peoples contributed to the win with 10 digs and three aces and junior Jessi Kerul finished the match with eight kills and four digs.
“Molly, that’s probably the best six rotations that I’ve seen her play in her whole career and she’s a third-year varsity player,” Weaver said. “Morgan and Ella played fantastic. My senior class is great in general. They lead really well so to see them take that and lead their teammates was fantastic because the young ones listen because they work hard.”
Mentor’s setters—junior Anna English and sophomore Sam Hartman—also worked through some early match jitters to put together a solid performance.
“My setters struggled in the first set and they both know that, but after I let them breathe and take a second they went out and did their job and made it easy for everyone else,” Weaver said.
After a 3-2 loss to VASJ on Wednesday, North hoped to right the ship with a big win over Mentor.
The Rangers got off to a hot start but came up short in the end.
“I just think it’s still a mentality thing with us,” Heller said. “We worry about who we’re playing on the other side of the net and because they have Mentor written across their jersey it’s like we don’t believe that we can beat them. But, I believe we can be in the top three in this conference. I think we have an opportunity to really prove who North is and I don’t know that we believe that as a group yet. It’s just showing in situations like that.”
Seniors Alison Schimmels and Katie Alexander nearly matched Mentor’s attack with 11 and 10 kills, respectively, but the Cardinals were effective in keeping the Rangers out of system.
“To me, it’s a confidence thing,” Heller said. “They can do it. I’ve seen them in pressure situations in practice and they get out of it. We do it in practice but when it comes to games, we don’t have that same confidence to swing away and be the one to get a kill. We’d rather try not to make an error.”
Alexander also contributed with five digs and four aces and sophomore Samantha Cantrell had a big day at libero as she finished with a team-high 18 digs.
“Sam Cantrell got the opportunity in the libero position. I think she showed a lot of effort,” Heller said. “Allison Schimmels was essentially playing with a broken hand but her mentality, you could tell she wanted it the entire game. She has no business being in the back row yet with half a hand but I put her in there because of her mentality.”
Sophomore Jaiden Anderson led the Rangers with 31 assists and also contributed with seven digs and one block. Madi Jablonski pitched in with six kills, five aces, and one block, and Cami Welty finished with six kills and a block.
Mentor, who improved to 3-2, hosts Lake Catholic on Wednesday while North, who dropped to 1-2, travels to Mayfield on Tuesday.
“The most important match is the next one in front of us,” Heller said. “It was a very upsetting game last week, the last time we had our jerseys on, but after that game, I said our most important match was Mentor and now our most important match is Mayfield. That’s the nature of volleyball. It’s a game of second chances and we have to use this as a second chance to get out there and prove ourselves.”